The (de facto) President does not have a sound case for going to war in Syria. His actions show contempt for due process of (international) law. The evidence even that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had broken international law is lacking. Most of all, the Constitution grants to Congress, not to the President, the “power…to declare war.” Therefore Barack Obama pours contempt on the Constitution.
The case Obama is making against Syria
Barack Obama surprised everyone, including his aides, last Saturday (31 August). He insists he has full authority to order military attacks abroad without asking Congress. Yet he said he would ask Congress. (He did this, of course, after Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom asked Parliament for authority to use the Queen’s forces against Syria. They did not give it him.) The first hearings on whether Obama even has a casus belli in Syria began yesterday.
Secretary of State John Kerry went to Capitol Hill to make that case. He alleges that:
- The military of Syria launched a gas attack on Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, on 21 August.
- In so doing, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria broke “international norms.”
- Bashar al-Assad also directly threatens the security of the United States.
That last is critical, apart from evidence that “goes to the merits.” That could be the one thing that gives the United States any standing in this case.
So Congress must sit as a court, and decide the case against Syria as a court would. That means Congress must, or at least should, consider the case with regard to standing, merits, and possible contempt of court.
Lack of standing
To have standing to sue someone, one going to court must show:
- An injury in fact,
- that the other person likely caused,
- that the court can do something about.
The most obvious people with standing would be those living in Ghouta. No one beyond that has come under such attack, that we know of.
Other countries might have standing, if the President of Syria broke a treaty. Did he? Neither he nor his father nor their predecessors ever signed any non-proliferation treaty about chemical weapons. No country can break a treaty that said country never signed.
But do any other treaties exist saying that any first use of chemical weapons is an attack on all of humanity, and other countries may counterattack? The only organization that might have standing to enforce a treaty or “convention” like that, is the UN. But lately the UN has refused.
So who’s asking the United States to jump into a civil war in Syria? Maybe the rebel faction in Syria. But what is their reputation? Do they represent those people in that suburb who suffered whatever it is they might have suffered? No one has shown that.
More to the point: who has personal jurisdiction over Bashar al-Assad of Syria? Maybe no one but Bashar al-Assad himself. No one has shown anything different. Personal jurisdiction is the power of any court to tell any person what to do. Can any international court tell Bashar al-Assad what to do? Of course, no charter can stop one country from defending itself against an attack from another. And, of course, countries can contract alliances, which offer to attack those who attack fellow allies. But who has personal jurisdiction over what a head of state does in his own country?
But what about Saddam Hussein of Iraq? Whether he had chemical weapons or not, and whether he had used them or not, was only one “aside” that might make war with him more desirable, even more urgent. It was not and could not have been the central issue. The central issue in the Iraq case was whether Saddam Hussein offered material support to another nation-state, or to a fanatical gang, that did attack the United States. So the casus belli against Saddam Hussein was aiding and abetting those who committed an act of war, not possession or use of chemical weapons.
One cannot make that case against Bashar al-Assad. If he was going to attack anyone outside his country, it would probably be the Republic of Israel or the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. That has not happened.
A case without merit
Now let’s assume Congress could get past questions like “injury in fact” and “lack of personal jurisdiction.” In short: does the case against Syria have any merit?
The only real evidence the public has seen that the military of Syria attacked anyone with chemical weapons, was one phone call that one general made to another. The intelligence services of the Israel Defense Forces reported this. That’s a shaky case for going to war. The case is even shakier in light of contrary evidence.
The day before Obama announced from the Rose Garden that he would go to Congress, Messrs. Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh, in MintPress News, dropped this bombshell. Rebels did this deed. Gavlak and Ababneh write:
Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing (sic) gas attack.
The report backs that up with several quotes from other rebels, and from people living in Ghouta.
This is not quite “rebels admitting responsibility,” as Paul Joseph Watson wrote in Infowars.com. But it has ample corroboration. This includes Jerome Corsi’s piece in WND showing video evidence that some rebels did the deed. And with Rush Limbaugh’s electrifying words that Al-Qaeda terrorists, having infiltrated rebel ranks, pulled off the gas attack. And furthermore: American intelligence people knew ahead of time. His source: Yossef Bodansky of the World Tribune.
Further support comes from the Israeli press. Ha’aretz (“The Land”) writer Zvi Bar’el described Prince Bandar’s ambitions for a “post-Assad Syria” more than a year ago. Bar’el also mentioned that US authorities investigated Prince Bandar’s wife for alleged Al-Qaeda connections.
Saudi commentators say Bandar was the one behind the decision to give money to the Syrian rebels, and even to buy weapons for them. They say the Saudi demand that Assad step down is part of Bandar’s strategy[.]
Is a false-flag operation against a suburb also part of the Bandar strategy?
Reasonable doubt. That’s the standard of proof in criminal cases. It ought to be the standard for going to war.
Contempt of Congress
More important still: is Barack Obama showing the right attitude toward Congress?
What did he mean when he said he had full authority to attack Syria, but would go to Congress anyway? He left doubt that he would stand down from a war posture if Congress votes against him. At least David Cameron was gentleman enough to do that when Parliament voted against him.
Yesterday, Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., wanted his former colleague, John Kerry, to tell him plainly: would Obama obey the word of Congress, or would he not? Paul reminded Kerry sharply that, regardless of any statute, only Congress may declare war. And one does not lob missiles into another country’s territory in any context but war. Lobbing missiles is an act of war.
Incredibly, Kerry tried to deny this basic principle. Paul was having none of that. Indeed, two days before, Paul had thrown one of Kerry’s own famous anti-war quotes back at him:
How can you ask a man to be the first one to die for a mistake?
Indeed. Or a miscarriage of justice, in the name of a court that didn’t even have competent jurisdiction.ARVE Error: need id and provider
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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